William Ware Theiss – Style Guru (US)


Is it possible to create practical clothing for space travel that’s also sexy?

Fans of cult TV series Star Trek will, of course, know the answer to that question – a resounding “affirmative”.

Costume designer for the original Star Trek series William Ware Theiss is famously credited with his eponymous “Theiss Titillation Theory” which claims:

“The degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be”.

In other words, the outfits needed to look like they were about to fall off – which they sometimes very nearly did, thanks to the ever-amorous Captain ‘busy-hands’ Kirk.

A key example of this idea was the female android costume in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”,  aired in 1967, in which the revealing top portion consisted of two crossing straps of material that connected in one piece to the trousers.

A demonstration of the titillation theory

Another – and Theiss’s personal favourite – was the gown featured in the episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?”; which featured a backless dress,  the front held up only by the weight of the train which fell over the shoulder to the floor.

Shatner: “Set phasers to stunning”

Real space-wear should probably retain some element of practicality however. Indeed, in the absence of gravity, even a simple dress could inadvertently afford one’s fellow spacefarers with a rather closer view of the moon than they might have expected. And you know what astrophysicists say about getting too close to a black hole…

Wearing clothes that can be easily removed is actually a very good idea in space, since using the powder room without gravity is likely to remain a tricky business for the foreseeable future, with all manner of suction cups and nozzles to grapple with every time you need to drop some cosmonauts off at the spaceport.

Looking for the Captain’s Log? A modern space loo is a technological marvel.

With a boom in space tourism now seemingly inevitable, the need for the selfie generation to have something decent to wear above the clouds is set to become a pressing issue.

The clothes currently worn by astronauts aboard the International Space Station are primarily practical in nature. They need to be comfortable, and of course, fabrics must be fire-retardant. But they must also be ‘low-linting’, since dust in zero-g can cause serious equipment malfunctions. You wouldn’t look quite so hip gasping for breath after the oxygen pump stops working because of your dusty old space jumper.

The weight of one’s garments needs to be kept to a minimum too, since the heavier the payload, the more costly it is to take beyond the atmosphere.

For the average citizen today, a trip into the void and back can cost in the region of £250’000. But, as happened with air travel, that price tag will eventually plummet, making the experience much more accessible to the masses, though it probably won’t be replacing the annual trip to Benidorm anytime soon.

We can only hope that by the time we’re holding our own ticket to the stars, some common ground will have been struck between William Theiss’s inspired vision of cosmic couture and the shapeless bags that those NASA boffins would have us wear.

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